Bus and Coach Operators to answer Members’ questions
Mr Williams and Mr Dennison, Commercial Director, and Managing Director of Stagecoach South West respectively, attended and spoke at the invitation of the Committee on developments affecting bus services and the network in and around Exeter since the last meeting, as follows:
· a new fleet was starting to enter service on the orbital routes R/S which were to Euro 6 emissions standards with fewer particulates than a single modern car of the same age;
· plans to serve some of the new housing developments in the East of Exeter were progressing with the creation of a second, larger orbital route to serve Rougemont Park by linking up the two ends of the J service from Whipton Barton through to Digby; this would give a combined 10-minute frequency between IKEA and the City Centre, either via Whipton or Countess Wear and Stagecoach was waiting on a start date from the County Council;
· in the meantime, route J had been extended into IKEA the previous week, following on from the frequency increase to every 20 minutes last September;
· the partial Bus Station closure was anticipated from 17 June 2018;
· despite the media reports about the Company’s annual fares review, with rising running costs (the majority of which were labour related) and reducing local authority funding, several key fares had been held at the same price, and even the Exeter Dayrider which represented around 25% of sales, went up by 10p to £4, which was the same price as it had been in 2006 – 12 years ago;
· the Company had added a Park & Rider fare to the range of tickets available on its mobile app, which continued to provide customers on all services real time departure information;
· as another part of Stagecoach’s technology developments, the Company was introducing Contactless payments in July, including bank cards, Apple Pay, Google Pay and wearable devices;
· Stagecoach was working with Exeter City Council to provide an evening and Sunday service to the Quay from the July school holidays, subject to completion of the flood alleviation works and confirmation before a start could be made; and
· Stagecoach continued to contribute to the various committees and working groups around the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan and the Exeter Mobility Plan.
In response to Members’ questions the representatives reported that:
· noting the concern of some members about the location of the bus stops/shelters at the IKEA Store which entailed a lengthy walk for customers, they had not been informed of any issues and they expected that the shelters would be located at the layby, and that it was primarily a matter for the Store’s management;
· noting the concerns of Members about the increase of the child add-on fare from £1 to £3 (when compared against the group fare for 5 adults and free travel for dogs, for example), the probable disproportionate impact on women and lack of consultation, Stagecoach had introduced this as a promotion some 7 years ago and it was now considered no longer sustainable, and their other fares for children represented good value, and the Company believed that, despite the limited number of contracted services with the County Council, the Public Sector Equality Duty did not apply nor as a consequence the requirement for the Company to undertake any equality impact assessment;
· the level of data analysis used in making commercial judgement and decision;
· in view of the concerns expressed, the representatives would review the decision but felt that their fare structure was advantageous for most passengers and the increases were necessary in view of the significant investment made by the Company in their fleet and rising running costs;
· their common objectives with local authorities was to reduce congestion and acknowledged a Member’s comments about the good services provided by the Stagecoach in the City; and
· the Company would respond to any written queries relating to the B service frequency and alleged ‘idling’ at a stop creating noise and air pollution relating to the A service.
The Chair thanked the representatives for their attendance, updates and responses to Members’ questions.
Councillor Brennan presented the representatives with a petition of 1818 signatures calling upon Stagecoach South West to ‘consider their social and environmental responsibilities, to reverse this decision, and to retain the £1 child add-on tickets in Exeter’.
The representatives would respond to Councillor Brennan (as the organiser of the petition) directly.
It was MOVED by Councillor Atkinson, SECONDED by Councillor Brennan and
RESOLVED that the Travel Plan for the IKEA Store in Exeter be reviewed (to included reference to the location of the bus stops/shelters) for report to this Committee.